Digital Video NewFronts

Without big news to push, some publishers sit out NewFronts

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Lola Ogunnaike and Jeremy Parson appear at the Meredith NewFront on Thursday.
Lola Ogunnaike and Jeremy Parson appear at the Meredith NewFront on Thursday. Credit: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Meredith

Fresh off the heels of its $2.8 billion acquisition of Time Inc., Meredith made its NewFronts debut on Thursday morning, pitching its upcoming video to an assembly of digital ad buyers. But Meredith's arrival comes as the number of presenters at the annual New York event has dropped to 16 from 32 last year and the schedule has contracted to one week from two.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, which organizes the event series, is also planning a new, week-long Los Angeles edition. But it is slated for October, well after the TV upfronts that inspired the NewFronts in the first place.

For some online publishers, the NewFronts serve as an excellent place to add sizzle to a company's new offering. Bloomberg Media sat out this year, for example, but used the 2017 NewFronts to promote TicToc, its new video channel on Twitter.

Meredith hosted an event this year to show its broad reach following its acquisition of Time Inc.'s portfolio, which includes publications such as Food & Wine, People and InStyle.

"Meredith now has 42 trusted and iconic brands, at-scale reach against highly coveted audiences like millennials and Latinas," Jon Werther, president of Meredith's National Media Group, said in a statement. "With these capabilities, a collective audience that represents two of every three dollars spent in virtually every key consumer category in the U.S."

In addition to Bloomberg, notable presenters at the 2017 NewFronts that did not participate in 2018 include Turner, Hearst, Defy and Popsugar. Vice, which was part of the IAB's 2017 NewFronts program, put on a very NewFronts-like event Friday that did not appear on the IAB's official calendar.

BuzzFeed, Yahoo and FullScreen Media did not present in 2017 after participating the previous year.

One publishing exec, whose company presented in 2017 but opted not to return this year, says the return on investment simply wasn't there. "We will instead look at higher-impact opportunities throughout the calendar year," the executive says.

Presenting at the NewFronts isn't cheap. "The NewFronts are really expensive to pull off," says a separate publishing executive who presented last year but not this year. "At a minimum, you are looking at a six-figure investment, and that's not taking into account the time spent by one's team building and preparing for the event."

As for return on investment, that's negligible, the person said. "While we had a lot of success with them in the past, they served a bigger purpose for our company, namely, branding and establishing ourselves within the media space."

"Rather than investing the time and money in a presentation, we have really been focused on ensuring that we build upon the foundation we have set." the person added.

The IAB, which decides who presents and who doesn't, charges an upfront fee of about $25,000. People familiar with the new Los Angeles event say it isn't clear who will present, but say it will likely be a mix of newbies and previous participants in New York.

Anna Bager, exec VP of industry initiatives at the IAB, says Los Angeles has tremendous heritage for creativity such as talent, music and production. "We hope to incorporate that energy into the experience," she says. "Moreover, by expanding the NewFronts to L.A. in October, we have the opportunity for content creators to showcase new shows and renewed series, as well as branded content opportunities, for marketers' holiday and early 2019 needs. We've already heard from numerous buyers that they are excited to attend."

Marla Newman, senior VP of digital sales at Meredith, says the NewFronts served as an excellent vehicle to inform advertisers about the company's reach, new offerings and its brand safe environment. It's "a chance to showcase for the first time the coming together of two of the best portfolios of brands in the industry as the new Meredith," Newman says. The company says it is still deciding whether to join the L.A. event.

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CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article said Vice did not participate in the NewFronts this year after presenting in 2017. Vice held an event on Friday that wasn't part of the official program.

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